BURLINGTON, N.C. -- Church and community members gathered in Burlington for the "Black and Brown Lives Matter" rally Tuesday, hosted by the NAACP and Patnerships to Empower People organization in Alamance County.
The group said it was marching for justice and racial equality. Their message was that "all lives matter" regardless of race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status.
The group discussed national concerns about the tension between law enforcement officers and minorities.
Local Minister Dray Bland joined the march, telling FOX8 his hope was to get "to where we can build that transparency and that trust [with police] so that people in our communities feel that when they see a police officer, they're genuinely there to help us. Not hurt us."
The groups invited Burlington police officers to join the march. Chief Jeff Smythe said being there Tuesday was "simply the right thing to do."
Chief Smythe was one of several speakers at the event. He and several officers from Burlington, Elon, Haw River and other Alamance County law enforcement agencies walked in the march, too.
"When people look at us and say that the cops are racist -- no. The cops aren't racist. There are 700,000 of us [in America]. Don't paint us with that same broad brush. You don't want us to look at a Hispanic person or African American and judge them by the color of their skin? Don't judge me by the uniform that I wear," Smythe said in an interview. "Judge me by the character, by the actions I perform in your community."
Organizers of the rally said they wanted to talk to local law enforcement about better transparency, stronger laws against racial profiling and more frequently using police body cameras.
"We must see each other as equals," added one pastor.